Former FCC Commissioner and MIT Staff Columnist Speak Out Against Net Neutrality


Posted by Jenn Cobb on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010, 4:32 PM PERMALINK

If you were as excited as I to hear of the FCC postponing net neutrality decisions, heed Glen O. Robinson’s caution for us to rein ourselves in. Robinson, a professor of Law Emeritus at UVA and Commissioner of the FCC from 1974-1976, deciphers their recent decisions in his article The Middle Way to Internet Freedom.

Robinson describes the FCC’s preference towards what it calls the ‘third way.’ “Under this way,” says Robinson, “the FCC will declare that the full array of Title II regulations and requirements applies to broadband, but it will simultaneously invoke its forbearance authority (under Section 10 of the Act) to refrain from enforcing all but ‘a small number’ of key Title II provisions.”

The former FCC Commissioner continues, “If this new middle way seems moderate, that appearance is an illusion.”

Robinson argues that “Even if you believe the FCC should have forbearance authority (as I do), you ought to be nervous about this transparently manipulative use of it to design a new tailor-made form of regulation.”  He also points out that the FCC’s proposed restriction of Internet pricing for enhanced services “is simply industrial policy disguised as consumer protection.” The article concludes that the FCC’s proposal is surely not ‘The Middle Way’ or ‘the third way,’ but rather ‘the wrong way.’

As the FCC arguments unfold, more and more well-versed people are voicing concern over possible internet regulation, including staff columnist Keith Yost of MIT’s oldest and largest newspaper, the Tech.

Yost’s opinion article, Net Neutrality is a Broken Concept, provides a hypothetical metaphor with ‘Newspaper Boy Neutrality;’ a fictitious situation in which a FCC chairman demands the regulation of newspaper delivery and the newspaper system suffers on all fronts. It’s a good analogy, solidified by the rest of the opinion piece.  In it, Yost points out that proponents of Net Neutrality paint an unlikely and fictitious horror story to make their case.  In reality, he argues, the regulations would stifle innovation and the ability for “consumers to decide, through the free market, what they want their internet experience to be.”

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